Should we consider individual behavior differences in applied wildlife conservation studies?

Melissa J. Merrick, John L. Koprowski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Individually distinctive behavioral traits, or personalities, contribute to population-level processes and ecological interactions important in applied wildlife conservation research. Inter-individual variation in behavioral traits (personality) and correlation among behavioral traits (behavioral syndromes), can influence empirical estimates of population size and structure, models of resource selection and population dynamics, harvest and control in wildlife and fisheries populations, population response to disturbance and novel environments, and the success of reintroductions. Despite the important role that personality and behavioral syndromes play in the ecology and dynamics of wildlife populations, a disconnect between basic and applied research realms continues. While the concept of animal personalities and their role in ecology and evolution is increasingly embraced in the animal behavior, ecology, and evolutionary biology literature, it is less represented in applied wildlife management and conservation literature. We identify 10 research foci, often considered the domain of applied wildlife management and conservation, summarize examples of how these research domains may be influenced by personality and behavioral syndromes, and outline potential implications. We suggest that a focus on individuals in wildlife conservation study can bridge the gap between basic and applied research and incorporate knowledge from both realms towards more effective management, conservation, and recovery of populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-44
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Animal personality
  • Behavioral phenotype
  • Behavioral syndrome
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Wildlife ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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